After an overwhelmingly productive beginning to the Tour in Nameri, the group drove to Kaziranga. And it’d mesmerise them with the infinite beauty it contained in its confined wilderness.
When the group entered Kaziranga, they saw rhinos on the left side of the road, and stopped to climb a watchtower. Many participants in the group saw rhinos for the first time and the atmosphere was charged with excitement. They saw the beings of the wild on one side and the village life going by effortlessly on the other, in harmony that seemed almost ethereal.
They then checked-in to a nice property which had a lawn garden as an embellishment, which would also frequently invite to its confines some gorgeous spider hunters, sunbirds and hornbills among other species. The quaint property in the heart of wilderness had a mystic feel to it, and the service was rather comfortable, with some delicious food served with appetising smiles.
On the first safari the next morning, the participants, along with the Tour Skippers, headed towards the east zone of the National Park. Waders and other water birds were seen in the water bodies – a wonderland incomparable – including male and female mallards. A herd of smart barasinghas were found on a small island.
The sheer density of biodiversity in the wide open spaces of the wild, which the participants were just beginning to see in frequent bouts, got better with a big herd of Asiatic water buffaloes. A citrine wagtail was spotted, and more avian beauties were seen through binoculars.
Kaziranga has plenty of watch towers. The group climbed one and saw grey-headed lapwing, grey-backed shrike, the majestic greater-spotted eagle and more mallards near the jeep track. An elegant bronze-winged jacana in the water was spotted.
A pretty little common teal was seen for the first time in the Tour. A pair of comely hog deer was seen. Bar-headed goose was seen sailing on the tranquil waters of a lake, followed by the sighting of the ever-charming kingfisher.
After the vibrant oriented-pied hornbill was seen and photographed and loved and revered for its daunting beauty, a raptor fest followed, when grey-headed fisheagles and their magnificent flights were beheld. The subspecies of Indian roller, affinis, which is endemic only to some parts of India, was captured into stunning digital frames. A woolly-necked stork flew from an open space into a wooded area, a speck of splendour in motion against a sublimely still background.
A brilliant dash of blue in the form of small niltava, a bundle of joy – jungle owlet – and an overdose of sweetness in the form of green imperial pigeon were spotted and seized into delightful photographs. A cute little common otter was found rolling and grooming itself on an island. A few darters flew across while a oriental honey buzzard perched on a dry tree also flew away into the depths of the jungle.
Next to make it on the list of the numerous birds spotted in Kaziranga were Asian openbill, lineated barbet and a grey-capped pygmy woodpecker. Elephants have never ceased to delight a wildlife enthusiast, and an elephant herd at a small waterhole charmed the participants who made some wonderful shots of it. Another small niltava appeared, and as the group moved on, they saw a buffalo cooling himself and having a peaceful time in water.
After a great morning safari, the group saw a stork-billed kingfisher on the way back to the resort. They rested for a while and soon, the evening safari was to follow.
The prolific sightings of wildlife in Kaziranga continued as the group saw male and female scarlet minivets just off the main road. The group entered the western zone of the forest, soon to be welcomed by the sight of rhinos, standing solemnly, unaware of their own magnificence in the wilderness. More affinis rollers were found later, followed by a heartwarming sight – a buffalo suckling her calf.
What was in store next was the group’s first close encounter with rhinos. As the group waited close to one grazing, watching them as the time seemed to stand still, it walked across the jeep track, giving ample opportunity to make some enchanting photographs.
A little further, another solitary Indian one-horned rhino was found grazing on a beautiful meadow on the right side of the jeep track, and this was a great opportunity for the group to make some fantastic images of the rhino that was least disturbed even by their boundless enthusiasm.
They moved on to a lake where a tiger was known to have lingered around the previous evening. Although they didn’t get to see a big cat, they made some images of an egret the dusk gathered more densely with each passing minute.
Another rhino crossed their path as the group started towards the exit, and thus, another eventful day saw its epilogue. The Skippers discussed some photography concepts with the participants later in the evening, and they called it a night after a delicious dinner.
The next morning, the group went to the central zone of the national park, where elephant rides are available for those who choose to go on one. Straight away a herd of barasingha standing in the mist was met, which gave the group an opportunity to make some evocative wide-angle shots. A few stags were also found nearby.
Piles of rhino dung were found, on which flowers had grown, signifying how life always has a way to exist in wondrous forms even in most implausible places and situations. That morning, too, the group found a rhino in high grass, which allowed them to make some wonderful habitat pictures of it.
When they went ahead, a mother rhino and her calf were photographed, the exact kind of sensory overload a travel-photographer longs for in the wild.
Hog deer alarm calls were heard but no big cat or any predator was found in the area even after an expectant pursuit. The group returned to base and disembarking the elephants, enjoyed breakfast at the parking near the entrance and later went deeper into the central zone.
At a watchtower, they made some exotic panoramic shots of the beautiful landscape which contained water bodies and lush grass. A common stonechat somewhere in the tall grass gave participants a great opportunity for making pretty images of it.
A rufous woodpecker enchanted the bird lovers. The group watched a few elephants near the path for quite a while, and a lone rhino was spotted grazing farther from where they were. A few adorable Assam roofed turtles on a wood log, about 14 of them, were photographed into some beautifully quirky photographs, which proved once again just how vastly diverse the wildlife in Kaziranga is.
Another stonechat perched on a twig suddenly flew away, giving the participants to make images of it in flight. A greenshank was spotted on the way out. Near the exit, the group found yet another rhino, half of its face wet and dark, with a few mynas around looking at him as his ear tufts glowed in the light. Another citrine wagtail sighting later, the group went back to the lodge.
Post noon, they saw bar-headed geese hanging around by water’s edge, when suddenly one of them started display, flapping its pretty wings. Participants in Sachin Rai’s safari vehicle got some stunning head-on photos of them, along with several other species of birds in the course of the safari.
A grey-headed fish eagle perched on a dry tree afforded some amazing shots at the end of the safari.
Post sunset, in the soft, fragile evening light, buffalo and hog deer were found and several beautiful landscape images were made by the participants, after which they returned to the lodge.
The next morning, the group left early in the morning on a two-and-a-half-hour drive towards the border of Nagaland. It was drizzling, making the journey itself a surreal experience. The entrance to Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary is next to a quaint railway station, which transports an observer back in time. After the entry formalities, two guards accompanied the group as there were elephants in the Gibbon forests. Seven different primates are known to inhabit this part of the wilderness in Assam, and the group was hoping to see the hoolock gibbon, which was the flagship attraction of the day’s adventure in the wild.
Capped langurs were found and the group started walking into deeper, denser part of the forest.
When Skipper Santosh Saligram looked up randomly, as though it was a cosmic calling, he saw a hoolock gibbon atop a tree. Hoolock gibbons are known to be monogamous and both the male and the female participate equally to bring up their offspring. A male hoolock gibbon, a female and a baby boy were spotted, much to the delight of the eager group, and on the way back, yet another gibbon was spotted against the erupting spring hues.
Soon after the group drove back to Kaziranga, and in the evening, a hog deer sighting wrote the prelude to the time in the wild, by offering the participants to make some nice full-frame portraits.
A hog deer stag was then spotted for the first time in the tour, which was a beautiful experience. In the gentle back light, the sighting of antlers gave the group an opportunity to make some really good pictures. An imposing Pallas’s fish eagle, sitting regally on top of a tree, was also captured into handsome frames. More stonechats were found, following a streak-throated woodpecker.
The group then climbed a watch tower to behold the glorious sunset that evening. The Skippers taught the participants to make HDR panorama shots, shooting the sun against light, as fine technical details were to be kept in mind – when the foreground will be underexposed against the sun and to prevent the sun from being overexposed. HDR panoramas allowed the participants to capture breathtaking breadths of the landscape, with the combination of two different techniques.
Outlining the range of the Kaziranga National Park is Bhoora Pahad, which was an hour’s drive for the next morning adventure in the wild. As the group drove towards their next exotic destination, the sun was rising and the dawn breaking out against all the wilderness all around was a quiet glory revelling in its own timeless silence.
A few rhinos were already spotted on one side of the road, a buffalo herd was grazing peacefully, and a hog deer was crossing the road. This part of the wilderness wasn’t exactly wet as the thick rainforests but was heavily wooded. An opportunity for portraits of a shy hog deer in the shy morning light occurred in such landscape.
A pretty striated grassbird, the grey-backed shrike and another hog deer were spotted. At a rounded bend, two great Indian hornbills were found. Watching them eat fruits was an unparalleled joy for the group, and they were all awed by its majestic beauty. At the anti-poaching camp, the group had their breakfast.
A large-tailed nightjar was spotted when the group resumed the safari.
A lesser coucal was found in a gorgeous open meadow. The group went by a beautiful common redshank to later find a pied kingfisher hovering over a waterhole. A little further, a big herd of buffalo were also seen and photographed to behold the scale. At a beautiful waterhole, more bar-headed geese, tufted ducks and ferruginous pochards were spotted.
In the afternoon, on the main road, a great hornbill was seen, and not just photographing these spectacular birds was a delight but even experiencing their sightings itself was the highlight of the Tour.
A white-rumped shama made an eye-catching appearance. And near another watch tower, two rhinos were beheld before a group picture of the participants and the Skippers was made.
On the way back, the little blue thing, verditer flycatcher, was seen, followed by some attractive black crow butterflies. As if it wasn’t already too much to assimilate, more beauty emerged as yet another rhino was seen grazing in the meadow. An avian beauty with a rather long bill, common snipe, was seen in water. What was to follow next was the beautiful sighting of a rhino crossing the water in the beautiful evening light.
A male bluethroat and a male common stonechat offered some lovely pictures, while a fish eagle on the ground allowed more images.
And then, to write an incredible end to the story of the Kaziranga Photo Tour, a striped beauty was also seen on the last evening! When the group heard some alarm calls on the way back, they drove further up the jeep track, and just a little closer on their way, they finally saw a tiger basking in the enormous beauty that made eternity a tangible experience for those precious moments the group watched it and with immense love made some images of it.
The Kaziranga Tour was thus sealed off perfectly, and the tiger gave the group the perfect send off, something they hadn’t even expected in the last minute of their time in the wild.
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The final bird-count for the entire Tour stood at a resounding 180, as listed below, and much credit went to the participants who enthusiastically kept track of the sightings, verified them with the Skippers in the evenings, and helped consolidate the list.
|2||Red Jungle Fowl|
|13||Indian Spot-billed Duck|
|26||Indian Pond Heron|
|40||Pallas’s Fish Eagle|
|41||Grey-headed Fish Eagle|
|44||Crested Serpent Eagle|
|47||Indian Spotted Eagle|
|48||Changeable Hawk Eagle|
|57||Common Ringed Plover|
|65||Common Pigeon (Blue Rock)|
|66||Green Imperial Pigeon|
|67||Oriental Turtle Dove|
|69||Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon|
|70||Yellow-footed Green Pigeon|
|72||Vernal Hanging Parrot|
|80||Asian Barred Owlet|
|93||Oriental Pied Hornbill|
|101||Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker|
|102||Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker|
|116||Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo|
|117||Greater Racket-tailed Drongo|
|138||Pin-striped Tit Babbler|
|141||Common Hill Myna|
|144||Asian Pied Starling|
|147||Blue Whistling Thrush|
|149||Oriental Magpie Robin|
|151||Plumbeous Water Redstart|
|156||Little Pied Flycatcher|
|158||Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher|
|164||Asian Fairy Bluebird|